S.A. Adair: Locus

The closed-up gallery space is filled with ultraviolet blue, making your eyes pop. All around you is a material drawing, glowing whitely: clustered, uneven lines webbing and creeping along the floor and up the walls. Is it threatening? Or enchanting? S.A. Adair would love to know.

Adair is a sculptor interested in immersive experiences that trace the physical, emotional and psychological remnants of personal engagement. Locus (2018) is an ephemeral work exploring the notion that change and development can arise out of times of neglect and disinterest, creating possibilities that may not happen otherwise.

Locus first appeared in one of Canberra’s disused city spaces during the 2017 ‘You Are Here Festival’, and the artist was pleasantly surprised at the enthusiasm of the general public, who plunged wholeheartedly into the tight space, taking selfies and group photos. This latest iteration, at Australian National Capital Artists (ANCA) Gallery in June, is a chance to reconfigure the work and augment it with performance.

Trained at UNSW Art & Design and the ANU School of Art & Design, Adair works predominantly with line, using found objects, drawing media, felt and gravel. Sometimes the lines form a discrete object (Inkening, 2015), or wall-mounted graphic components that act like symmetry fold-overs (Contagion, 2014). Recently she has started creating landscape installations, making Japanese-style white gravel gardens with sharp red gravel lines that trace conceptual echoes emanating from trees in the area.

S.A. Adair, Contagion, 2014, felt, 700 x 300cm. Photograph: Dean Butters. Courtesy the artist and ANCA Gallery, Australian Capital Territory

With ‘Locus’, there’s more than a slight feeling of being inside something virtual, perhaps because of the intricacy of the linework, which feels computer-generated. It’s not: Adair works with the processes of chance, deconstruction, elimination and reconstruction, hand-cutting her abstracted drawings into felt to make organic three-dimensional marks that push and pull their surroundings. The slightly radioactive tonality to the room adds to the sense that the marks are growing, intertwining and spreading across the vacant surfaces. They feel a bit out of control: on a macro scale, the room could be filling with encroaching plant matter. Flip your perspective and you could be inside a human body, staring at endometriosis, cancer, or moving through the waves of an ultrasound. Or perhaps it’s less earthly and more wonder-full: you could be immersed in cloud crystals or somewhere completely alien. There is no guidance; just immersion, sensation, reaction.

S.A. Adair, Inkening, 2015, installation view at DIP Gallery, Sydney

A gallery space like ANCA provides a clean-slate setting for this work – an alternative encounter to the small, grubby urban nook of its former exhibit. On opening night there will be a performance interacting with the work that will subsequently loop as video at the gallery entrance, providing some sort of introduction.

After this showing, Adair hopes to find other, more challenging sites for the work: deserted industrial spaces that will add further dimensionality and foster unexpected encounters. For this, she may need to look further afield than Canberra, where abandoned buildings rarely decay long enough to look interesting before being knocked down or repurposed.

Caren Florance is an artist and writer based in Canberra.

ANCA Gallery
14 June to 1 July, 2018
Australian Capital Territory